• 800-232-LOWE (5693)
  • info@lowe.org
  • 58220 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031

How Empowered Are Your Employees?

“How Empowered Are Your Employees?”

To remain competitive, organizations are abandoning the traditional hierarchical command-and-control management style in favor of establishing a work environment that advocates employee empowerment at all levels. This quiz tests your readiness to accept an empowering work environment by evaluating the degree to which you hold these values and beliefs.

To remain competitive, organizations are abandoning the traditional hierarchical command-and-control management style in favor of establishing a work environment that advocates employee empowerment at all levels. Establishing this new environment entails encouraging employee responsibility, accountability, self-management, trust and recognition. Leaders must be willing to let go of their roles as bosses to take on roles as coaches and facilitators. Achieving this change is not easy. Some deeply ingrained obstacles and beliefs about leadership, management, employees and modern organizations must be confronted and challenged.

The empowering work environment requires a set of values and beliefs that must be embraced and practiced by all levels of management. This quiz tests your readiness to accept an empowering work environment by evaluating the degree to which you hold these values and beliefs.

  1. In evaluating/recommending candidates for promotion to managerial positions, you believe:

    1. Past achievements are the best predictors of a person’s future success
    2. The person’s ability to coach, train and lead a high-performance team is as important as past performance
    3. The candidate’s ability to fit in with the current management team is a top priority
  2. You are composing next year’s budget. What criteria do you use to determine allocations for training employees?

    1. Fund business and leadership training for managers only
    2. Fund literacy and basic skills training for employees
    3. Fund basic business and leadership training for all employees
  3. Your organization is revising its management appraisal system. Whose feedback should be considered when evaluating a manager’s performance?

    1. Collect feedback from everyone, including subordinates, peers and any customers and/or suppliers who do business with the manager
    2. Only the key people with whom the manager interacts should provide feedback on his or her performance
    3. Management performance appraisals should be eliminated. There are too many variables affecting performance that are beyond the manager’s control, for example, the competition, demographic shifts and inflation
  4. You have made a very costly error that has resulted in extensive budget reductions for your company. How do you explain the reductions to your employees?

    1. Explain that the budget has been cut; refrain from telling them the real reason, unless specifically asked
    2. Explain the whole truth up front, including what the error was and why it occurred
    3. Create a reason that the employees would be likely to tolerate to explain why the budget was cut, for example, revenue projections have decreased
  5. Your organization invested heavily in a new technology that will change the way work is done in your group. In implementing the changes, you:

    1. Get input from the technology experts and your management team, then prepare the implementation plan yourself
    2. Have the plan developed by one of your managers
    3. Bring together a team of employees who will be directly affected by the technology and ask them to create the implementation plan
  6. When evaluating your staff’s performance, how much importance should be placed on individual performance; how much on the team’s effort?

    1. 20 percent on individual accomplishments and 80 percent on team accomplishments
    2. 100 percent on individual accomplishments
    3. 80 percent on individual accomplishments and 20 percent on team accomplishments
  7. You have been called into an emergency budget meeting by your financial advisors and asked to reduce your company’s budget by 5 percent. Which of the following items would you cut?

    1. Training expenses
    2. Your salary and the salary of other managers
    3. Employee Recognition Awards
  8. You have been asked to identify the obstacles to implementing an employee-empowering environment at your company. Where do you start?

    1. With a study to determine who is causing the obstacles
    2. With the employees because empowerment obstacles are 80 percent employee controlled and 20 percent management controlled
    3. With the systems and practices controlled by management because empowerment obstacles are 80 percent management-controlled and 20 percent employee-controlled
  9. Which of the following best depicts how the role of a supervisor will develop in an employee-empowering environment?

    1. The role of the supervisor will change and expand to include providing direction, developing teams and team members, coaching and training
    2. The supervisor will control and decide all the important decisions; other employees will be involved to varying degrees in decisions of lesser importance
    3. The role of the supervisor will be greatly reduced. Employees will be given control and will be able to make decisions in every aspect of their jobs
  10. How would you describe the employee empowering work environment?

    1. It is something for hourly employees
    2. It is based on shared values
    3. It is a series of training programs and quality circles
  11. How long do you think it will take to implement an employee-empowering environment?

    1. Two to three years
    2. Longer than three years but less than 10 years
    3. More than 10 years
  12. How do you typically refer to the people you work with?

    1. As individuals, associates and teammates
    2. As managers, subordinates and employees
    3. As supervisors, labor and support
  13. Which of the following are true statements about the employee-empowered environment?

    1. The biggest barriers are created by rank and file
    2. The biggest barriers are created by management and supervisors
    3. The results are quick and quantifiable after the process is implemented


Tally your points for the following answers.

Question 1: A=0, B=10, C=5
The work environment should be composed of employees working together as a high-performance team. An employee-empowered work environment maintains an energizing climate, one that motivates the team toward greatness. It will reinforce, recognize and reward the qualities of leadership, coaching and training.

Question 2: A=5, B=0, C=10
All employees, regardless of job title, position or classification, need basic job skills. Limiting the training limits the overall pool of creative ideas.

Question 3: A=10, B=5, C=0
To evaluate the overall effectiveness of the team leader, feedback from all stakeholders — those on the team and those who rely on the team — must be included. Subordinates, peers, customers and suppliers have a valuable perspective on the success of the team leader’s efforts.

Question 4: A=5, B=10, C=0
If a team leader can color the truth, so can everyone else on the team. No one likes to work with dishonest people; don’t condone or practice dishonesty just because it is a convenient way to avoid problems. Accurate and honest information openly communicated is the goal. Old models where top management knows everything, middle management knows a little bit and those at the bottom have a few crumbs of information, just don’t work anymore.

Question 5: A=0, B=5, C=10
Trust the team members most affected by the problem to solve it. The "authority trap" snares managers or those in power into believing that they are the best and only source of solutions and decisions. Don’t get caught in the trap!

Question 6: A=10, B=0, C=5
A group of individuals giving their best efforts can sink a company if they don’t all work toward a common goal. Turning individual internal competition into team collaboration is the goal.

Question 7: A=0, B=10, C=5
Training is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Cutting management salaries in tough times sends a powerful message that you are willing to carry some of the burden when it comes to budget cuts. You will also let employees know that they are important members of the team.

Question 8: A=5, B=O, C=10
The true obstacle to creating an empowering work environment is management — management processes, policies and practices. After all, management created the present organization; that is where the changes need to start.

Question 9: A=10, B=5, C=0
The role of the supervisor includes developing the vision, establishing direction and boundaries, modeling the desired behaviors/actions, providing immediate feedback and resources, facilitating and coaching others toward continuous improvement, and recognizing and reinforcing effort and success.

Question 10: A=5, B=10, C=0
An empowering work environment encompasses everyone in an organization. Empowerment is based on how we as employers treat our customers, clients and employees through leadership behaviors. These values become the criteria against which the appropriateness of all actions are evaluated; they can’t be faked or limited to certain levels in the organization.

Question 11: A=0, B=5, C=10
The journey to an employee-empowering environment is never-ending and constantly evolving. It is marked with increases in customer and employee expectations. It is a finish line that can never be reached; where victory is in the race, not the finish line.

Question 12: A=10, B=0, C=5
This may seem insignificant, but managers who value and respect the people they work with refer to them as individuals, associates or teammates. People don’t respond well to demeaning titles.

Question 13: A=0, B=10, C=5
More often than not, employees are advocates and supervisors are resistant to an empowering work environment.


105-130 points:

You are ready to embark upon the journey required to create and maintain an employee-empowered environment. Your belief in high-performance teams and leadership shines through your recognition of the value of training, development and employee respect. It is now time to create an environment that encourages all employees to achieve their maximum potential. You don’t have to wait for anyone; start by removing the barriers that prevent employees from exercising judgment and creativity in their work. Create a high-involvement process to address your company’s values, goals, objectives, rewards system and communication patterns. Trust the process; you and your associates will be quick to define other areas to address along the route to an empowering environment.

80-100 points:

You’re not quite ready; your predominant values are the traditional views of management and management practices. These values foster a view of an employee-empowered work environment as something done to others, not as an internal commitment to go all the way. To change, expand your own awareness, skills and information:

  • Learn to be a leader, coach, trainer and team builder.
  • Develop high-performance teams with high-performance team members.
  • Find small successes within your organization and build upon them.
  • Create a participative setting.
  • Provide support to those in your organization who are true believers in this type of corporate culture.

Less than 75 points:

You may be interested in employee empowerment because it is a fashionable thing to do. If so, rethink your strategy. Any attempt to "fake it" will be met with employee mistrust and disdain. If you are interested in employee empowerment because it is right for your company, go out and find this environment in action, talk to people who are doing it, see the benefits. Once you begin to believe, you can begin building an empowering environment.

About the Writer: Dr. Matt Starcevich is co-founder of The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness. He can be reached at (918) 333-6609.

All rights reserved. The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher.